Hooray! The Espresso Book Machine (EBM) is now available at the independent bookseller called Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, CA. (http://www.bookshopsantacruz.com/). This device is pretty much a gigantic printer that can print and bind books to look pretty much like every other book in the bookstore. With color cover capabilities, varying trim sizes, and a page count of 20-800, a lot of options are available. If a book isn’t on a bookstore’s shelf, then just print it! The EBM is made by a company in New York called On Demand Books (www.ondemandbooks.com).
The EBM has its own catalog, but I can imagine that it’s NOT aimed at bestsellers, as those books are usually already in-stock at most bookstores. It is probably targeting the long-tail of book titles that may never make it onto the shelves, but also provides an option for those of us with writing projects that aren’t aimed at the mass market.
A friend of mine (thanks Bobbi!) just emailed me an article titled “Books to Go,” by Lisa Jensen. (http://www.gtweekly.com/index.php/santa-cruz-arts-entertainment-lifestyles/literature-poetry-book-reviews/3970-books-to-go.html) Lisa’s story talks about the possibilities for smaller projects to get printed in-style, suggesting family histories or a recipe collection as some of the many possibilities. Two little girls in Santa Cruz were so inspired for the machine that they made a book for their mother on Mother’s Day. Wow! Wouldn’t it be amazing if EBM could do for writing, what Flickr did for photo albums, or YouTube did for video?? We’d suddenly have a whole new generation of writers!
Lisa’s article also mentions the possibilities for local authors to utilize the EBM for literary events. I don’t know who usually coordinates the number of copies of a printed book available at a book signing, but I can imagine the logistics are a hassle. An author sits behind a table of books in a bookstore and hopes for someone to take interest in buying a signed copy. Sometimes the books sell, and sometimes they don’t. The EBM eliminates the inconvenience of the up-front coordination of printed copies, while eliminating the risk of unsold copies. Book signing events with EBM can even happen impromptu!
If there’s a limitation to the EBM, then I suppose it doesn’t entirely eliminate the need for a box or two of printed books to be carried around in an author’s trunk for local marketing events. A flea market might be a weekend destination to sell a few dozen copies of a book, but it would be way cooler to sit at the same flea market with an EBM and enjoy the revenue from curiosity sales. Still, I can carry a couple of 40lb boxes of books to sell at the flea market. A few hundred pound EBM won’t fit in my trunk.